Tuesday, April 12, 2005

GENERATION Y - Understanding them to reach them!

Fellow SCB Alliance blogger Bill Rice, of Dawn's Early Light, posted a thorough analysis of a new Brookings Institute study titled "OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith In The iPod Era" (Bill says the complete study is here and here).

DEL quotes from the opening Executive Summary:
This generation could be - and has been – described as directionless, lacking in community ties and meaningful participation in communal life. This research builds a more nuanced understanding of this generation, revealing that Generation Y does seek community and meaningful involvements, though often in informal and non-traditional ways. Religious faith and commitment is one route by which young people find meaning, value and community, though their religious pluralism complicates what this looks like in practice. The diversity of Generation Y and the informality of much of their religious participation make it difficult to say that there is any one way that religion works in young people’s lives.
Basically they're saying don't bite on the stereotypical bait commonly proffered; "Gen Y" isn't what people have said they are.

Based on the data presented in the study, this is a sweet-n-sour conundrum: on the one hand conveying significant independence of spirit as the
offspring of "Gen X"; contrasted with, on the other hand, their openness to the subject of religion, spirituality, and community.

The study claims three goals ...
  1. To ascertain how young people are coming to understand their religious identity
  2. To describe what their religious practices look like in this era of customization and change; and
  3. To explore the ways religious identity informs the civic participation of today’s youth.
In lay language this means the researchers wanted ...
  1. to learn who kids think they are religiously
  2. to learn how these same kids act this out and
  3. to learn how these same kids engage their culture
DEL wisely inserts a portion of the study to amplify this latter point ...
In this study, we find a strong relationship between religiosity and a broad range of volunteer activities with 79 percent of the most religious participating in volunteer activity in the last 12 months compared to 43 percent among the least religious. Religion is less closely tied to political and cultural involvement.
I don't want to lift all of Bill's content just to have something to say, so be sure to visit his site, one graph is worth the trip; it's about 3/4 of the way down the post and is entitled "Attitudes by Religiosity."

The authors of the study concluded with a three point summary [my translation follows]:
  1. There is no easy answer to reaching these young people
  2. Novel methods are required to reach these young people and
  3. The kenetic and the audio-visual will catch the attention of these young people (Mel Gibson's Passion is offered as an example)
Look, anyone who cares about the future of the Church in America in the years to come should have noticed this coming. One doesn't have to be a seminary graduate or have "phud" behind his name to see a generation like this would probably follow "Gen X."

Our charter is to identify leaders among Generation Y; then nurture and equip them to reach out to their peers with the goal of raising up the next generation of disciples for Christ Jesus.

My warning to those whom God calls to directly engage "Gen Y" is to avoid novelty at the expense of the Word who took on flesh and dwelt among us.

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